Offering a timely reminder that the Spirit of Christmas is alive every day, acclaimed singer/songwriter and speaker Billy Ballenger’s aptly titled All Year is now available. The three-song EP was produced by Riley Friesen and features the message-driven title-cut as well as two new interpretations of Michael Card’s Christmas classic, “Joseph’s Song.” Co-written by Ballenger and Friesen, “All Year” is a joyful pop anthem showcasing the heart of the Gospel: “Every laugh, every smile when we celebrate/is a love that’s a gift that we all can take/when we find out that Jesus is here all year.” Understanding that Christmas is more than a holiday, Ballenger hopes the song will encourage listeners facing troubled times—no matter the season. In this TCB Exclusive, Billy reflects on the journey that led to this holiday release. He also talks about his favorite Christmas music and what he is looking forward to in the new year.
Can you share how All Year came about?
I love being real transparent about this. As of August, I had made the decision I wasn’t going to do anything with Christmas this year. I had another single that I was excited about going to radio. And [then] I got some good wisdom from my team that the timing wasn’t right for that single, but then was asked if I had anything Christmas. It was September 10 when we made the decision, and within a week I was in Franklin, TN in the studio working with Riley Friesen. I used to perform “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card on tour, so we were picking through songs and I wanted to do something classic. So we picked that one, and just loved how it came together. And that was going to be it – I wasn’t going to do an EP or an original. I came in the next day to do some touch-up, and Riley said we should write a new one. So that’s where “All Year” came from.
We started talking about people getting into the Christmas Spirit. I know it’s God’s Spirit, but I think people, even if they don’t know God, at will summon it. They make a decision to experience this joy. And we’re starting to write lyrics now. God really touched it. We also had a conversation about people who want no part of Christmas, and then we talked about people who are broken and are on the outside looking in and wishing they could experience this. So it was three different types of people that we talked about.
As I was recording all this, I knew I had something powerful with “Joseph’s Song.” And then when “All Year” came together, I knew there was something special with the demo. I’m just so thrilled and humbled by it that the message is there in both those songs. And to let you in on a secret, I went right in to start with the music video for “All Year,” but the way that song came together, we felt we weren’t going to be able to do it justice in such a short amount of time, so it’s a possibility for next year.
Which holiday album puts you most into the Christmas spirit?
Not a particular album or song, but I like the really old classic songs – the stuff sung by Bing Crosby and Andy Williams. There’s something special about making me feel like a kid again, when life was simpler, and you were so little you didn’t know all the crazy that was going on in the world.
Earlier this year you started an acoustic tour run that included you sharing your testimony in addition to your music. Why is it important to you to put together that night and message?
For me, I was a preacher that sang. I pastored an inner city church; I had a prison ministry; I was in prison, so I would always share my testimony. Music was a dream and gift that was always there but needed help to bring it forth. Carman was an artist that inspired me by combining music with a message. He used to fill stadiums many years ago and he always had the message of Jesus in the music. I’ve been performing professionally for twenty years, at least. I would tour schools to share and use music to bring them in, and offer them Jesus Christ. About a year ago, the Lord shared ‘Faith Like a Child – The Acoustic Tour.’ I was talking with my publicist about it, and we came up with that name and it fit so well because we needed to get back to simplicity. Everything in this world has become so convoluted and so much information. So I wanted to help people get back to the simplicity of the Gospel. The first time I came to Jesus was when I was ten years old, and they let me go to a Baptist Church. They picked us up at our houses and took us to the firehouse where there were bleachers set up. They preached Jesus there and I accepted Jesus into my heart. I remember that moment and the simplicity of it. I was only captivated by that fire station garage. There were other kids and a preacher. All through the Bible refers to us as children, and the innocence of that, which spawned the name of the tour.
I’m still doing some of those shows, and it became a great opportunity to not only deliver the music, but the music opens the door for the testimony. People inherently want to go deeper than the music itself. They are after the message, so it would be a real danger to deliver the music without sharing the Gospel. And we have people come to Jesus on the tour, and receive prayer on the tour. I also get to partner with a great organization Destiny Rescue. They’re the premier sponsor of the tour. And then we had another sponsor, NAFC, which we teamed up with as well. We were able to rescue so many children with all who have stepped up from this tour. It’s been a powerful opportunity!
What are your biggest hopes personally and professionally as we prepare for 2023?
Well, I’m already in negotiations right now for a 30 city tour for next year. I’m going to be back in the studio releasing new music. More music, more opportunities to share the message. My wife and I think this opportunity is expanding all the time. It’s just relatable. Everyone can live a hope-filled life.